KABUL - Former interior minister Hanif Atmar fears Afghanistan may plunge into civil conflict if international forces pull out of the country on schedule in 2014. The withdrawal of US and NATO-led troops would pave the ground for a proxy-led war in Afghanistan, Atmar told an audience at a Washington-based think-tank on Thursday.
Speaking at the Center for Security and International Studies, he warned the Afghan state would disintegrate and security forces break into factions after foreign troops left the country.
"It is a perfect scenario for a proxy war among regional players, including Pakistan and Iran," he remarked, while urging the presence of a residual US force of 30,000 troops in the country beyond 2014.
Sacked as interior minister in 2010, Atmar acknowledged the US troop surge had helped stabilize southern Afghanistan. However, he added: "We do not see the same progress in the east, the southeast, or even the west."
The Karzai administration's efforts at bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table had not yielded the desired results, said the former minister, the founder of the Truth and Justice party.
He predicted the government might collapse. "Why would it fall? If there is a premature drawdown of troops, if there is a significant reduction of economic assistance... and if the vacuum created is to be filled by regional actors." (